by Steve Wagner
In the week preceding Farm City Day, at the Keystone International Livestock Exposition (KILE), I received an email touting the benefits of technology in agriculture. “Farmers in third world countries can then become managers of their fields instead of working all day in the fields,” it proclaimed. “Right now, 30 percent of all agricultural surfaces are used for cows. Imagine if we don’t need that space anymore.” In post-American Revolution America, 98 percent of this new country’s citizens were engaged in farming, including the nation’s first President. Today, it is between one and two percent. The purpose of the annual Farm City Day held during KILE is designed to reconnect people with agriculture.
The latest edition of Farm City Day at the state farm show complex in Harrisburg was highly successful, though there were about 300 fewer students this year than last year. Sixteen schools and home school associations from Cumberland, Dauphin, Lancaster, and York counties participated in this free event. “Farm City Day encourages tomorrow’s consumers to take a close look at Pennsylvania agriculture,” said Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding. “For some, it may be the first time they have seen carrots with green tops still attached. Or they might make the connection between cows and cheese. The games they played today may influence the food they choose tomorrow or the careers they pursue as adults.”
During the single day event, there were games that used farm animals as illustrations, where children were able to play hopscotch and ski-ball type activities involving such images. Guides helped them to earmark the importance of such farm denizens in the grand scheme of things.
This year’s PA Dairy Princess, Halee Wasson explained, “I’m an agricultural education major at Penn State University. Being the Princess gives me the opportunity to educate kids of all ages and backgrounds in just a few hours. It helps me to see how to educate various audiences in different ways, especially when you only get five minutes with each of them.” Wasson says the children, mostly city residents, were savvy enough to want to know what three dairy products are available to them each day. “Really, it’s a variety,” Wasson explains, “but the biggest campaign we push everyday is with milk, cheese and yogurt. But of course, they like their ice cream and their cream cheese too.”
“It’s great for kids to learn where their food comes from and to be able to experience these hands-on activities,” said Sylvan Heights Charter School fourth-grade teacher Shannon Hawkins. “Some kids have never even seen a sheep or touched a farm animal before.”
“Farm City Day is a great way to reach not only students, but also teachers,” said Stephanie Roscinski, with the Center for Dairy Excellence, herself a former Pennsylvania Alternate Dairy Princess who participated in Farm City Day during her reign. “It is important for children to know where milk comes from, not just from the store, but from farm families. We want to bring the lessons of agriculture into schools.” Through 24 educational stations, students learned where milk comes from, how vegetables grow and how honey is made. They learned about healthy living through healthy food and physical fitness, met farm animals, discovered how food gets from farm to grocery store shelf, interacted with 4-H and FFA members, and learned how to spin wool.
The Keystone International Livestock Exposition is the largest livestock show on the East Coast with more than 1,100 beef cattle, 200 goats, 625 horses, 1,200 sheep and 500 swine exhibited by producers from 30 states.
by Steve Wagner